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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”

 

Hepatitis B Hits Japanese Football Team

Bleeding may have transmitted infection, study shows

By Nicolle Charbonneau
HealthSCOUT Reporter

http://healingwell.subportal.com/

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 13 (HealthSCOUT) -- Being an athlete demands blood, sweat and tears. Unfortunately, shedding blood for a team sport may pass a dangerous virus among players.

A study in the latest issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine describes five cases of acute hepatitis B and six cases of asymptomatic infection that occurred on a 74-member football team at the University of Okayama in Japan.

The researchers concluded that blood from open wounds or scratches from this rough-and-tumble sport might have transmitted hepatitis B virus (HBV) among the athletes. One hepatitis expert says the findings make a strong argument for preventive vaccinations against the virus.

Hepatitis B is a serious disease that damages liver cells. It can lead to scarring of the liver and an increased risk of liver cancer. More than 200,000 people of all ages get hepatitis B each year in the United States.

HBV can survive outside the body for at least seven days on a dry surface, and is 100 times more contagious than HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. HBV is transmitted through body fluids, such as blood, semen and vaginal secretions.

HBV most commonly is spread through sexual contact, but any kind of sharp contaminated instruments can transmit the virus. HBV infection has occurred during tattooing, body piercing, acupuncture, human bites, or through blood transfusions before HBV testing became available in 1975.

Medical tests on the Japanese players and managers revealed the virus began with a single player who carried the hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) while playing in the middle of the offensive line during training. Two other asymptomatic carriers played quarterback and wide receiver.

 

The presence of the antigen means a person is carrying the disease, though there may be no symptoms.

All the players who developed acute hepatitis B were either offensive of defensive linemen in the same training group as the original carrier. None of the defensive backs, who rarely had physical contact with the first carrier or the offensive or defensive lines during training, became infected with HBV.

So the researchers concluded the HBV antigen was probably passed to other players through a bleeding injury during training.

"There's a lot of virus in blood. You get direct blood-to-blood contact and there is always the potential for transmission of this disease," says Thelma King Thiel, chairwoman of the Hepatitis Foundation International.

The best defense is immunization, says Thiel.

"Certainly, if you're in a high-risk sports activity like this, it would be a good idea to get them all vaccinated. Vaccination would be a simple answer to prevention, as far as this population goes," she says.

The vaccine, which is ideally given to newborns, can last 14 years or longer.

Dan Reeves, head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, tells his players about HBV. "I think everybody should be vaccinated," he says.

The Falcons club holds a seminar for players on the various types of hepatitis, including the risk of infection from tattooing or piercing. Reeves says the seminar, which has included speeches by alcoholics and drug addicts, has been the most heavily attended meeting the organization has arranged.

 

Reeves says the National Football League is very conscious of bleeding injuries.

"Our trainers use rubber gloves," says Reeves. "Anytime you have any kind of bleeding, you take serious precautions because you're worried about any kind of transmission."

What To Do: You can find out more about hepatitis B from the American Liver Foundation the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .

 

13-SEP-2000

 

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